LinkedIn still seems to grab a lot of people as a recruiter/job hunting site. In reality, it has already become many things. Social network, news aggregator, personal branding platform, networkers’ paradise. This last use interests me. How do the power networkers use LinkedIn, and, do their long lists of connections mean anything outside the ego rub of being very well connected?
It’s important because half of us won’t be in jobs within 8 years. We’ll be part of what Susannah Breslin calls the “gig” economy: small, micro-businesses highly dependent on our personal brand value and our connections for revenue! So online networking is one of those skills that many of us need to learn. We might be enthusiasts or cynics, we might not know what steps to take or we might look down on the very idea of using sites like LinkedIn to boost our personal brand power. The reality though is we all need new ways to convert weak ties into business.
I put a few questions to Neal via email. Why did he opt to build a LinkedIn network?
NS: “Early in 2008, I found myself looking for a new challenge. The problem was that I had no local network where I was living after spending the first 15 years of my career in Asia. I made the strategic decision to use LinkedIn to create my network, first virtually and then to bring these people into my physical network when I had the chance to meet them or mutual needs arose. And therefore I became an open networker and actively reached out to others that I wanted to build my Professional Graph around.
Now there is one other incentive I had for building out a large network: LinkedIn Search. LinkedIn has changed their search algorithm many times over the years, but early in 2008, search results were always displayed in descending order by number of connections. This meant that, if I wanted to get found for any given keyword, I needed to be better connected on LinkedIn! It was this aha! moment which helped me see LinkedIn as a business networking tool, and I haven’t looked back since then.”
HS: I confess not to thinking about my network as a “professional graph”. I need to put that in my terms. LinkedIn, to me, looks like it is becoming more of a networking environment and networks are really about community.Once you have community rather than just connections, I assume business is easier, so I asked Neal: How would you go about creating a community, or group, on LinkedIn?